EDITORIAL: Voting in New York could become even easier

Voters cast their ballots during the first early elections at Niskayuna Town Hall in Niskayuna on Saturday, October 26, 2019.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Voters cast their ballots during the first early elections at Niskayuna Town Hall in Niskayuna on Saturday, October 26, 2019.

While other states, largely run by Republicans, are taking steps to roll back voting rights and deny their citizens access to the polls, New York thankfully is moving steadily in the other direction.

In the past couple of years, New York — one of the nation’s most progressive states with ironically some of the most restrictive voting practices — has made it easier and more convenient to vote.

On Tuesday, state lawmakers took another leap forward by approving two propositions to place before voters on the November ballot. Both would require amending the state constitution.

One of the bills would allow voters to request “no-excuse” absentee ballots, which would allow them to vote by mail or drop-off without providing a reason.

Under current law, only those with a limited, valid reason for requesting a mail-in ballot can request one.

As part of his covid emergency powers, the governor allowed voters to use fear of contracting covid as a medical exemption to request an absentee.

This law would remove the need for any excuse at all.

Absentee voting has proven to be popular, safe and secure in other states where it is practiced.

No-excuse absentee voting will open up voting to people with childcare or work issues, transportation challenges and to those who simply don’t want the inconvenience of voting in person.

The second bill would allow voters to register to vote and vote on the same day.

Now, we know what you’re thinking. This is ripe for fraud because people could go from polling place to polling place on election day, registering and voting multiple times without getting caught.

But that’s not how it works in practice.

Right now, at least 20 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of same-day registration.

To ensure the integrity of the vote, those who show up to register on election day are required to provide some proof of identity and address, such as a driver’s license. A current utility bill might suffice as proof of address. Some states require that voters sign a statement that they are not voting in multiple places, with significant criminal penalties for violating the oath. Some allow voters to vote provisionally until they can verify the registration information. So same-day voting can be made secure and protect against fraud.

Already, New York has erased decades of voter suppression by allowing early voting, automatic voter registration and shortening the time someone can change their party affiliation.

Voters will now have an opportunity to further expand access to the polls by supporting both of these necessary and vital constitutional amendments in November.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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